1 player, horizontal game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
If Bram Stoker were alive today, would he have written "Dracula" as an interactive novel? Atari thinks so, and their reinterpretation of the horror classic is DRACULA THE UNDEAD, a gothic adventure for the Lynx. You play the part of Jonathan Harker, who is visiting Count Dracula to conduct real estate business. As the story begins, Jonathan has awakened from an overnight sleep at Dracula's castle, ready to work. However, the Count has affairs to attend to, and will be gone until the evening. With a day of waiting and no Lynx to spend the time, Jonathan decides to explore Dracula's quaint home. In your travels, you will discover many unusual secrets; your goal is to escape with evidence proving that Dracula is a danger to mortal men and possibly destroy the Count himself. Of course, Castle Dracula is filled with danger, not the least of which is its tall, imposing owner...
As the plot summary attests, DRACULA THE UNDEAD is not your ordinary video game. If nothing else, its gets credit for diverting from the usual sword-and- sorcery fantasy scenario. Game control is similar to the method in computer adventures such as KING'S QUEST and THE ADVENTURES OF MONKEY ISLAND: each room is a graphic image, and you use the joypad to move Jonathan around and explore it. Complex actions are done by choosing verbs and nouns from a scrolling window to form commands like "examine drawers", "open door", or "use lamp with tinderbox". Room features that you can interact with are indicated by having its name appear on-screen when you pass by it. You can also talk to people by selecting your dialogue from a number of sentences.
The actual adventure is a fairly challenging affair, though a little bit linear. Many times, there are several possible goals, but usually only one will lead to progress which advances the plot. Puzzles are not easily solved, and often nothing can be done without a certain item that you haven't found yet. Hints are few, coming from Jonathan's musings and an occasional narrative from Bram Stoker, and red herrings abound. It is also possible to finish the game without winning it, since Jonathan must make enough notes to build a convincing case against Dracula. The game assumes a little knowledge of vampire lore, but nothing too complex, while dialogue and descriptions are brief but appropriate.
There are only two weak points with DRACULA THE UNDEAD, the first being the control scheme. Each room is shown from a single viewpoint, with the LCD screen being one of the walls, so some features are unseen, either because they're off-camera or part of the screen "wall". Since their names appear when Jonathan approaches them, it's only a minor nit, and enforces the need to explore rooms thoroughly. The greater flaw is the lack of a save-game feature. You must finish this game in one sitting; the game disables the automatic shut-off feature of the Lynx, but if you haven't finished this title already, it's best to play with an AC adaptor.
DRACULA THE UNDEAD is drawn in shades of brown and tan, using impressive "brownscaled" images that look almost like digitized aged photographs. Most of the animation comes from Jonathan walking around, with a little gratuitous scaling as he moves towards and away from the player. The game is sprinkled with animated scenes, such as the conversations with other characters, and Bram Stoker flipping pages while reading the latest plot twist.
Sound effects are a respectable mix of machine-generated and digitized effects, such as creaking doors and the howl of wolves, but they are few and far between. Instead, the game's most consistent sound is a moody background tune that plays continuously. It can be disabled with the Option 2 button if it proves wearisome, however.
DRACULA THE UNDEAD offers traditional adventuring fare with an unusual premise, with enough challenge and appeal to satisfy most adventurers. The inability to save a game in progress hurts, but dedicated players who are willing to live with this flaw are encouraged to give the Count a visit.
GAMEPLAY: 7.5 GRAPHICS: 9 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7.5